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Quote Sheet: U.S. Players Discuss Upcoming Match Against Mexixco After Training

U.S. head coach BOB BRADLEY
On whether his team is the favorite in this game:
“Well, there is a confidence level in this group and the guys have played qualifiers here in the past against Mexico and the results have been good, so I think we go in with the right amount of confidence, a respect for Mexico and an understanding that we need to play well.”

On the quick turnaround before the game:
“The foundation is set from the work in the past. The players come in, we can tell right away that they’re excited to be here and to see each other. We have to try to assess where everyone is physically, with guys that haven’t been playing that much or in some cases, guys who are coming off of games from the weekend. There are always going to be some decisions, but as far as the routine, that’s all the same.”

On whether it’s good for the U.S. to start the hexagonal against Mexico:
“It’s exciting for everybody. I don’t think it’s what we expected but that’s the way the draw came out. Once we know we’re playing Mexico then everybody is motivated and looking forward to the game.”

On how he’ll prepare his team for Mexico with only two days of training:
“It’s the same for everybody. On a single fixture date, players come in and it’s the work that’s been done in the past year that prepares you for this game.”

On whether he’s seen a change under Sven-Goran Eriksson:
“No, I think the style is the same. The talent is there and we know it will be a good game. They’ll work hard, try to keep the ball moving as they always do and they’ll have a lot of energy. I think they’ll be ready to put their best foot forward.”

U.S. defender and captain CARLOS BOCANEGRA
On the importance of a win on Wednesday:
“I think this match is more, the first game of the last round of qualifying for us. The Mexico game is always big for us, that’s our main rival and we’re their main rival. This match though is pretty special just because it starts off the last round of qualifying and we want to start off on a positive note. That makes it even more important.”

On the USA’s dominance over Mexico over the past decade:
“It’s been going our way, especially at home but we know they have a good team and every time we go out it’s a battle. But those games are in the past and we have to go out there and earn it on Wednesday night. As much as the scores of late have been in our favor, it’s going to be a difficult game and we know we’re going to have to work and play hard to beat these guys.”

On whether there is hatred between the two teams:
“I don’t know, hate is a strong word. They’re trying to win and we’re trying to win. It gets heated, you guys can see that but I think that’s because the countries are so intertwined off the field as well, it makes it that much more of a special match.”

On the upcoming game against Mexico:
“We’re prepared. It’s the first game of the last round of qualifying at home and you always want to get three points at home. We’re looking forward to playing our rivals and giving them a game. The crowd is going to be packed and rowdy and the more support we have, the better it will be for us. We’re ready to go. We’re preparing ourselves as well as we can and it’s going to be a good one.”

On whether the U.S. has a psychological advantage playing at Columbus Crew Stadium:
“It’s definitely there. I think it’s in the back of their minds because all of their press is constantly talking about it. I think it is in their minds a little bit but once the whistle blows it’s a different ball game. We’re going to leave everything on the field as we’ve done in the past and we’re going to battle. We’re going to fight for our country.”

On how it will be to play in Columbus Crew Stadium:
“Anytime you have the home support and with the crowd we’ve had since the Crew are champions, with the rowdiness of the fans and how much they were behind us, I expect the same for the U.S. game. The more support we can get, the better it is for the players because the fans really do pump us up and give us that extra man on the field.”

On what it would mean to start in this game:
“As a competitor and as a professional you always want to be out there playing and starting. My job is to make it as hard on the coaches as I can and be in that position. At the end of the day it’s their call and as a player you respect whatever decision they make. I’m here for the team as we all are. It’s a great group of guys and we’re really looking forward to it because these are the games you want to play in.”

On whether the field and weather conditions will factor into the game:
“When you look at all these guys playing in Europe, and even the guys in MLS are used to this type of weather. Once the whistle blows it’s the same for both teams.”

U.S. goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On whether the conditions of the game give the U.S. an advantage:
“I think it’s an advantage to some extent, at least we feel that it is. Mexico is starting to export players and they’re playing in Germany and Spain, England and Russia, so they’re going to be somewhat accustomed to it as well. But we’re going to try to use it to our advantage as much as we can.”

On playing at Crew Stadium:
“Part of the mystique is that we’ve gotten really good results here over the last few years, so that always makes the players feel a lot more comfortable. It seems to be a good turnout, the crowd is always behind us so that always helps.:

On the USA-Mexico rivalry:
“It deserves to be up there with the biggest rivalries in sports. It’s not going to be at this point, but to see a game live and really witness it, a lot of sports fans would be surprised at how passionate and how rough it really is.”

On how the rivalry has changed over his career:
“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it recently so it’s changed simply because I’ve been able to feel and see the intensity, the ups and the downs. Inevitably, that experience is going to help me.”

On his excitement level for Wednesday’s game:
“I think any professional who is passionate about his sport gets up for these kinds of games. Mexico certainly has players playing at very good clubs around the world, a top coach and it’s going to be a good team. I’m excited for this game.”

On Mexico’s lack of scoring in recent games:
“If they have been having trouble scoring, that doesn’t mean they will on Wednesday. No two games are ever the same so our primary focus is to stay focused, prepare well for this game and hopefully get a good result.”

On the USA-Mexico rivalry:
“Needless to say, they have quality all across their roster. They have great players. Their rivalry with the U.S. is a given, it’s been there before my time with the national team so I guess I’d say I’ve inherited it.”

On whether the rivalry has grown over the past few years:
“There is obviously a feeling of respect because you have probably the top two teams in CONCACAF. I think both teams are fighting to be the top team in CONCACAF but that’s a good thing. Competition in our region leads to progress. I’m looking forward to a good game and hopefully a good result to start off 2009.”

On how important it is to be a part of this rivalry:
“I’m really excited to play now, you really can’t ask for anything more than to play your biggest rival to open the hexagonal. I’ve played against Mexico before in a friendly, but it’s obviously going to be something different on Wednesday so I’m looking forward to it.”

On whether he thinks the final round of qualifiers will be different than the semfinal round:
“Yes, for sure. As you get closer to the World Cup, without disrespect to some of our tough opponents in the last round, I don’t think there are any games, home or away, where you can say that it’s going to be an easy game. We know now that we have 10 games and the goal is obviously to be in South Africa at the World Cup. We have to step on the field 10 times and be ready to work for each other, compete and do whatever it takes to come away with the points.”

On how to prepare for a game like Mexico in just a few days:
“Obviously everyone comes from different situations. We have MLS guys, guys who play in Europe, some guys who have played on the weekend and some who haven’t. It takes everybody coming in and putting all the other things aside and focusing on the most important thing, which is the game on Wednesday night.”